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When you don’t have children of your own you’re particularly thankful for nieces and nephews I think. There was a weekend when our nephew and niece Alexander and Bianca were quite young that we were driving with them to Montreal. Now I couldn’t remember ever asking “Are we there yet?” as a child in a car but perhaps my mother could attest otherwise. Not having a memory of this I was going through my life at that point pretty much assuming that “Are we there yet?” was just some kind of urban myth and kids didn’t actually do that.
I found out on that trip that kids actually do that. Incessant are-we-there-yet’s coming from the back seat and I like to think I’m fairly patient but it got to the point where I was trying things like saying “I will tell you when we’re half an hour away ok???” and of course it didn’t work. Are we there yet? They were waiting anxiously and excitedly for the journey to be over. If you are following Christ you are waiting perhaps anxiously and perhaps excitedly for something too. Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting for Christ. Waiting for Christ’s birth. Waiting for Christ’s return. So how is our waiting going?
Of course I’m talking about following Christ and I’m generally not one to assume things and I don’t assume that everyone here is necessarily on the journey. It may be that you’re considering it. It may be that you feel that you’re being brought along on the journey through no choice of your own, sitting in the back seat like my nephew and niece on the way to Montreal.
Whatever the case may be, how is our waiting going? This is really the operative question. We may want to ask “Are we there yet?” or “How long O Lord?” but the really more immediate pressing and pertinent question is – “How is our waiting?”
The heartening thing is that the question “Are we there yet?” has been on the minds of followers of Christ since Christ was here the first time. The passage that we read in Matthew 24 is preceded by a question – “Tell us when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” This is the Advent that we await today. Christ’s return. In other words “Are we there yet?” In other words “Lord is this the time when you will restore your kingdom of Israel?” We live in the year of the Lord’s favour or the age of the Lord’s favour if you like and the age of the Lord’s favour has gone on now for over 2,000 years.
Are we there yet? The answer comes back very plainly and bluntly. For Jesus it wasn’t even a matter of “I’ll let you know 30 minutes before we’re there ok??” Jesus’ answer is plainly and simply “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (and you can talk amongst yourselves about the implications contained in that sentence for Christ’s humanity). “It is not for you to know,” in other words. I’m always mildly amazed at how many people spend so much time trying to figure it out and let others know what it is that they’ve figured out. As we sit in the back seat and try to stop ourselves from asking the question. Are we there yet? What are we supposed to be doing as we sit in that back seat trying to distract ourselves with car games or getting trucks to honk for us?
Here’s the thing. It’s not so much about what we’re supposed to do. It’s more at this point about what we’re supposed to be. Be ready says Jesus, because the Son of Man comes at an unexpected hour. If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. I’ve left my car unlocked a few times overnight and I guess I probably have done this quite regularly in the past. I would go out in the morning and find everything in the glove compartment thrown onto the seat and just general dishevelment of the car (worse than usual I mean). The funny thing is I would kind of take offense that the thief didn’t feel my cd’s were worth taking or whatever else I had in there – they were looking for cash I suppose. I used to imagine myself staying up and sitting on the living room couch and waiting to catch the car enterer (I can’t say breaker because it wasn’t locked) in the act. You would stay up if you expected that kind of thing! Or failing that lock your car more regularly.
Be ready. Do the things that you’re doing. In the days of Noah people were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage. In the age of the Lord’s favour people will be in the field and grinding meal and punching a clock and heading off to school and retiring and marrying and gardening and singing and playing music and….. all the things that make up our lives. Don’t stop doing those things. The return of Christ is not something to be feared when you know Christ any more than we’d fear the return of a long-time friend. That happens a lot in this season doesn’t it? I was once waiting on my mother flying back from Ireland in the Arrivals section at Terminal 1. Her flight was delayed and I got to see a lot of happy reunions. If you ever need to improve your mood and have some time, just hang around an international arrivals section.
Keep on doing what you’re doing. Be alert is all. Alert to what? For an answer we look at the words from the prophet Isaiah.
Alert to what is coming. This is the thing that is coming. Peace. Isaiah saw the word and thank God that Isaiah’s vision has been preserved for us. Isaiah saw a word and this is what the word looked like – Isaiah 2:2-4.
There was something my father used to say. I only ever heard him say it to describe seeing someone he hadn’t seen in a very long time. Someone who was very dear to him – a family member or friend. He would see them and he would describe it later saying “It seemed like a dream.” As in “Is this even real?” As in “This is so good that I can hardly believe it’s real.” So is it any wonder that the Psalmist sings “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Something so good that we can hardly believe it’s real.
To which we say – believe it. Believe that! Believe this. This is the heavenly dream – the righteous judge shall make all things right. Swords are beaten into plowshares. Spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift up swords or gun or tank or bomb against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more. I ain’t gonna study war no more. I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield.
The dream. Of course Dr. King picked up on this imagery as he spoke out against injustice.
The journey of Advent is a journey to a realization of a dream.
If you’re very keen you’re saying “Yes but there must be something we do!”
And I often say we wait actively. Yes we do. Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways.
Show me your ways Lord. Let us commune with God. Let us have fellowship with God.
In the midst of all the grinding and shopping and working and preparing and baking and decorating and studying and…
Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord so that he may teach us his ways.
His ways are the ways of peace. This same Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem that he loved so and said “if only you knew the things that made for peace.”
We could weep over our city and ourselves and say “If only we knew the things that make for peace. Teach us Lord.”
It might not be such a bad idea.
There are things that we can do as we ask the Lord to help us to be alert. We just finished a long look at some followers of Christ who devoted themselves to 4 things. Let us devote ourselves to those things. Praying together. The apostles’ teaching. If you’re not looking at the Bible and calling on God on a daily basis make a start. Use the Advent Devotional we’ve provided. Get it in your inbox. Fellowship with God. Fellowship with one another. Communion. Sharing. Start your Advent by gathering around the Lords’ Table today and bookend it by gathering around the Lord’s Table with us on Christmas Eve. Break bread together. Invite one another into your homes and accept invitations. Go to the Davidson’s for brunch. Join us for our post-service Christmas Eve party in the Friendship Room. It’s a good time. Wait well. Wait expectantly. Wait attentively. Let us wait together friends as we go along the Advent road which is a road to a dream. The road of peace. May God help us to do this together. Amen